My name is Sangoel

Written by: Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed

Illustrated by: Catherine Stock

For ages: 6-10 years

Language: English

Topics Covered: Global Community, Family, POC-Centric Narratives, Self-Expression, Courage, Immigration, Refugees. 

Summary: Sangoel is a young Dinka boy that lives in a refugee camp with his mother and sister.  They are leaving for America, and one of the camp elders reminds Sangoel that he always carries his Dinka name even in America. He leaves his friends that also fled war in Sudan, and boards a “sky boat” for America.  Off the plane, this new country is loud and fast-paced.  In this new country, and mispronunciation of Sangoel’s name begins to happen immediately.  Their host Mrs. Johnson teaches them how to use a stove, use a phone, and eat with forks.  The next day his doctor mispronounces his name, and the teacher does the same thing the day after.  Each time this happens Sangoel softly corrects them, unsure of what else to do.  At dinner, he is sad that he “has lost his name in America” and his mother offers a new American name as a solution but Sangoel knows he will always be Sangoel.  He goes to bed, but has an idea upon waking.  Later that morning at school, Sangoel reveals his hard work.  He has made a shirt that says “My name is” with a sun and a soccer goal drawn below, to help everyone with the pronunciation with his name.  His classmates go wild for his idea, drawing their own graphic interpretations of their names and everyone can finally pronounce Sangoel’s name.  Sangoel is still Sangoel, even in America.

Reflection Questions:

  • How would you feel if everyone kept saying your name wrong?
  • What do you think Sangoel and his family are feeling when they first arrive in America?
  • How could you welcome a new classmate to make them feel comfortable joining an unfamiliar group?

Continuing the Conversation:

  • Learn more about immigration.  Especially in America, most people come from somewhere else.  Where is your family originally from and when did they move to America?
  • Write a book or draw some pictures to help a new family navigate your neighborhood and community.  Mark important landmarks like the grocery store, library, schools, and really good playgrounds!
  • A lot of times when refugees move to a new place, they have very little.  Organize a clothing drive to have donations to give to anyone that may need them!

About the Author & the Illustrator:

KLW2Karen Lynn Williams (right) was born in Connecticut, and received her Master’s degree in deaf education. She has lived in Africa and in Haiti. Karen had an early dream to be one of the youngest published authors, starting a writing club at ten. However, Karen’s published works came later in life, after extensive travels and family experience. Karen’s ability to draw from personal experience and adapt into writing forms for all ages and interests expresses her true gift.

The Pittsburgh Refugee Center‘s Executive Director, Khadra Mohammed (left) is a native of Somalia and has over twenty years of experience in working with refugee populations, both in the US and in refugee camps in Pakistan and Kenya. In Pittsburgh, for the past eight years, she has advocated on behalf of local refugees and brought awareness of refugee issues to the attention of the greater Pittsburgh community. Ms. Mohammed is also a published author of several children’s books. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the Girl Scouts Woman of Distinction in 2005, and was honored with PUMP and Pittsburgh Magazine’s 2005 40 under 40 Award.

Catherine_StockCatherine Stock was born in Sweden, the daughter of a diplomat stationed in Stockholm. When she was very young, her family moved to Paris, then South Africa, then New Orleans, and finally San Francisco. Ah, the life of a diplomat’s child. Catherine attended art school at the University of Cape Town. The 70’s were tough years in South Africa. The universities were about the only venue for any tolerated vocal protest against apartheid. One summer, Catherine volunteered at a hospital in Zululand, building a fence around a reservoir to keep the cattle out. It was hard work, but Catherine had fallen in love with Africa. After graduating college, Catherine taught art and art history at a teacher’s training college in South Africa. Soon she moved to London to get her teaching certificate and taught at the Loughton School of Further Education in the East End. Disillusioned by the lack of interest in learning, Catherine decided to move to New York City, where her parents were now living, and gained interest in pursuing her art career. She spent time in New York and got her post-graduate degree at Pratt Institute, but moved back to Cape Town and lived there for three years. However, feeling stifled by the growing tension in South Africa, Catherine moved back to New York. Catherine is the illustrator of books for children, including Vinnie and Abraham, Emily and Carlo, After the Kill, and the Gus and Grandpa series (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). She is the author and illustrator of A Spree in Paree (Holiday House) and Porc in New York (Holiday House). Catherine lives part time in New York City and part time in France.

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